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Best USB-powered DAC / Headphone Amplifier combo (EU market)

mvnchies

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Hi,

my iFi iDSD Black Label just died on me, so I am using it as an excuse to try something else :)

I have a pair of HD800 (with "SDR mod"), 300 Ohm around 100dB / mW sensitivity.
They will be used single-ended as I ordered a custom cable with 3.5mm, don't feel like replacing it since I am super happy with it and they cost so darn much.

However, I need something that is USB-powered - would prefer no battery, since I only use it with a plugged-in laptop.
Don't want to be lugging around a power brick/cable, hence the USB-power.

All that said, I really don't know to choose a product like this... I see a lot of well-measuring products, but very few are available to buy here in Europe.
It also feels a little bit like a waste to buy something meant for Balanced use, when I only have a single-ended cable... not sure if this is a bad way of thinking though.

Do I want a volume control on the DAC itself? Does it control the OS (Windows 10) volume with its buttons, or is there usually some kind of indicator on the product itself? I didn't see much information about this, but it would be nice to have a consistent volume setting to fall back to.
As for volume, I don't listen very loudly, but it would be nice to have headroom of course.

Is using Windows volume control good enough? Or is it recommended to use 100% + hardware volume control?

Low noise floor? How much power do I need...? Crosstalk, is this ever an issue? Do amplifiers affect imaging/soundstage - as I prioritize this a lot with headphones at least...? :) really not sure what I'm looking for here.

I also don't really want to support MQA, but... it's just a vague moral point of view thing... :D

Size not super important, but as I understand it, most USB-powered devices are very small.

Budget is not suuuper important... but I don't think I'd like to spend over €1000.

Would prefer to buy within EU, or at least not pay too much for shipping.

Thank you very much!
 

ZolaIII

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Take a look if the Sound blasterx G6 fit's a bill for you (limited Linux functionality [DAC only] only and limited DSD support, it won't work on 500mv USB out [sucks more power] among other things).
 
OP
mvnchies

mvnchies

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Take a look if the Sound blasterx G6 fit's a bill for you (limited Linux functionality [DAC only] only and limited DSD support, it won't work on 500mv USB out [sucks more power] among other things).

It does seem like a good product! But I'm wondering... the USB performance is apparently lesser than the toslink... which might still be good, though.

but I feel like overall, I might be paying a lot extra for features I won't be using - like the SBX (surround?) mode and whatnot.
it's not too expensive, at 150 eur here, but... it's not super compelling unless I'm missing something :)

the 33Ohm performance (if I want to use my other headphones, one which happens to be around 30 Ohm) is a little concerning, but I don't really know how to read into it.

Thank you, didn't know about this one before
 
Last edited:

cheapmessiah

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Realisticly speaking you will need a wall plugged amp to push those cans. I understand you need both DAC and amp, and probably aiming towards an all in one solution for the transporting convenience. AIOs come in 2 form factors, small chassis external power brick, bigger chassis with internal transformer that plugs wth a regular 3 prong cable like you would use in a computer or monitor.

You probably need 150mW @300ohm minimum, with closer to 300mW being a safer option.

The units you can get in europe that meet those criteria are, in order of increasing price:

-Topping DX3 pro+: External power brick, single ended.
-Topping EX5: Internal power, single ended.
-Topping DX7 pro: Internal power, balanced.
-Matrix mini-i Pro 3: internal power, balanced.

Both balanced options have single ended outputs, but not powerful enough.

Its generally regarded as a better option to have volume control on the amp or gain control on the DAC than using windows volume.

You can also budget a balanced cable purchase, or DIY either a new cable or the one you have to be balanced if the solution you decide to get requieres such connection. You can always get an adaptor from balanced to SE to not lose that functionality (you cant get an adaptor from SE to balanced tho).

You also have other options like repairing your iDSD Black Label, or buying a new one of those if it already meets your requirements.
 

ZolaIII

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You need 210 mV (8V) into 300 Ohm's to drive them to 120 dB, SBX G6 has 85 mV which is enough for 116 dB (113 dB DSD with that DAC)
@mvnchies of course it would perform better trough optical than USB suckling 2 A 5V. You can get a Schiit Heresy amp and a Topping DAC for 300$ but it ain't gonna be powered over USB and it won't work with your laptop stand alone. Sorry but I don't know better USB only powered solution which would work. I thought you would find your way alone regarding reading. You probably can get it with a discount on upcoming holidays.
Best regards.
 
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mvnchies

mvnchies

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Realisticly speaking you will need a wall plugged amp to push those cans. I understand you need both DAC and amp, and probably aiming towards an all in one solution for the transporting convenience. AIOs come in 2 form factors, small chassis external power brick, bigger chassis with internal transformer that plugs wth a regular 3 prong cable like you would use in a computer or monitor.

You probably need 150mW @300ohm minimum, with closer to 300mW being a safer option.

The units you can get in europe that meet those criteria are, in order of increasing price:

-Topping DX3 pro+: External power brick, single ended.
-Topping EX5: Internal power, single ended.
-Topping DX7 pro: Internal power, balanced.
-Matrix mini-i Pro 3: internal power, balanced.

Both balanced options have single ended outputs, but not powerful enough.

Its generally regarded as a better option to have volume control on the amp or gain control on the DAC than using windows volume.

You can also budget a balanced cable purchase, or DIY either a new cable or the one you have to be balanced if the solution you decide to get requieres such connection. You can always get an adaptor from balanced to SE to not lose that functionality (you cant get an adaptor from SE to balanced tho).

You also have other options like repairing your iDSD Black Label, or buying a new one of those if it already meets your requirements.

ahh really... that sounds like a lot of power. I have no proper understanding for how high I listen in terms of dB, to be honest.
that said though, I saw in a few of the reviews here on ASR that amir was able to get good volume and dynamics on his HD650- which share the same impedance and sensitivity, roughly, as the HD800. so I was being a little hopeful... :D

but maybe it's in BAL mode, which I'm being hesitant about, given I just got a new cable and then my amplifier dies on me just outside of warranty :-( but, given my budget, it's not a huge blow.

I have to first thank you for answering some of my questions, much appreciated!

as regards to repairing the iDSD, I am going to attempt to have it fixed, but... thought it could be fun to try something new as well!

the Toppings look interesting. found a place in France selling the DX3 Pro+ (it's also on Amazon, but estimate is mid February, since it ships from China). looks very simple and clean, with a good size. measurements are almost scary good from what I can tell... and I assume because of the remote, it's digital volume control, which is a huge plus in my book!

again, thank you very much, will attempt to read & understand about these products!

You need 210 mV (8V) into 300 Ohm's to drive them to 120 dB, SBX G6 has 85 mV which is enough for 116 dB (113 dB DSD with that DAC)
@mvnchies of course it would perform better trough optical than USB suckling 2 A 5V. You can get a Schiit Heresy amp and a Topping DAC for 300$ but it ain't gonna be powered over USB and it won't work with your laptop stand alone. Sorry but I don't know better USB only powered solution which would work. I thought you would find your way alone regarding reading. You probably can get it with a discount on upcoming holidays.
Best regards.

ahh right, that does make a lot of sense thinking about it. both powering the amplifier, DAC, and also transmitting data...

sorry if I'm asking a lot of questions that are already answered, I don't really know what I'm reading half of the time so I felt it would be comforting to ask questions instead :)

I can actually pick this up locally, going to ask if they'll allow me to return it if I don't like it. it's about €130 eur... but I will wait until after the holiday, since I will be gone most of it, it's actually good timings.

thank you very much!
 
Last edited:

Leiker535

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ahh really... that sounds like a lot of power. I have no proper understanding for how high I listen in terms of dB, to be honest.
that said though, I saw in a few of the reviews here on ASR that amir was able to get good volume and dynamics on his HD650- which share the same impedance and sensitivity, roughly, as the HD800. so I was being a little hopeful... :D

but maybe it's in BAL mode, which I'm being hesitant about, given I just got a new cable and then my amplifier dies on me just outside of warranty :-( but, given my budget, it's not a huge blow.

I have to first thank you for answering some of my questions, much appreciated!

as regards to repairing the iDSD, I am going to attempt to have it fixed, but... thought it could be fun to try something new as well!

the Toppings look interesting. found a place in France selling the DX3 Pro+ (it's also on Amazon, but estimate is mid February, since it ships from China). looks very simple and clean, with a good size. measurements are almost scary good from what I can tell... and I assume because of the remote, it's digital volume control, which is a huge plus in my book!

again, thank you very much, will attempt to read & understand about these products!
The power ratings given here will drive the HD800s to 120db, which is greater than a aeroplane turbine at close range. You shouldn't need so much power, really.



You could try a "high" powered dongle like the Sonata HD Pro or the E1DA 9038D and see if they are loud enough for you. Amir himself was pleased with the output for the 650, which are very similar in req. to your HD800s. IF you want more or feel that the bass is too wimpy, or if you pretend to EQ, then you could try those €100+ solutions.
 

ZolaIII

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Those two hedaphones differ 3 dB regarding efficiency in the behalf of HD650 being more efficient.
@Leiker535 I wouldn't really go that lo (14~20 mV), Sonata and G6 share same DAC besides its always good to have some headroom.
 
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